AN ACT TO PROVIDE FOR THE CLERK TO APPOINT AN INTERIM GUARDIAN AD LITEM ON THE CLERK'S OWN MOTION; TO PROVIDE FOR THE CLERK TO EXTEND THE TIME FOR FILING INVENTORY IN THE PROPERTY OF THE DECEASED; TO PROVIDE FOR ISSUANCE OF AN ORDER FOR AN ARREST WHEN A PERSON FAILS TO APPEAR AFTER BEING SERVED WITH A SHOW CAUSE IN A CIVIL PROCEEDING; TO AMEND HOW COSTS IN ADMINISTRATION OF ESTATES ARE ASSESSED; TO ALLOW FOR TEMPORARY ASSISTANCE FOR DISTRICT ATTORNEYS WHEN THERE IS A CONFLICT OF INTEREST; TO AMEND OTHER STATUTES GOVERNING THE GENERAL COURT OF JUSTICE, AS RECOMMENDED BY THE NORTH CAROLINA ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE OF THE COURTS; TO PROVIDE FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF AN ARBITRATION AND MEDIATION PROGRAM FOR THE NORTH CAROLINA BUSINESS COURT; TO AMEND STATUTES GOVERNING MEDIATION IN THE GENERAL COURT OF JUSTICE; AND TO AMEND THE LAW GOVERNING THE REGULATION OF MEDIATORS.
Senate committee substitute makes the following changes to the 3rd edition.
Changes the long title.
Deletes the proposed changes to GS 15A-305(b)(7), maintaining the existing language concerning when an order for arrest may be issued.
Adds new Section 26.3, amending GS 132-1.10(f1). Authorizes a register of deeds, clerk of court, or the AOC to remove from images or copies of publicly accessible official records any of the identifying and financial information listed in subsection (f), without a request made pursuant to subsection (f), that is contained in that official record (currently, does not include express authorization to the AOC, and limits the authority specifically to removal of Social Security or driver's license numbers in official records placed on specified websites). Similarly, authorizes a register of deeds, clerk of court, or the AOC to apply optical character recognition technology or other reasonably available technology to publicly accessible official records in order to identify and redact any of the identifying and financial information listed in subsection (f) in good faith (currently, does not include express authorization to the AOC, and limits the authority to specifically identifying and redacting Social Security and driver's license numbers in official records placed on specified websites). Adds a new provision entitling law enforcement personnel, judicial officials, and parties to a case and their counsel to access, inspect, and copy unredacted records.
Deletes Section 26.5, which authorized a Council of State member who has prosecutorial authority to appoint a qualified attorney to assist the Council of State member in the execution of the duties of the member's office.
Adds new Section 26.6, directing the Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) to submit to the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate a report recommending whether and how to establish an arbitration program within the North Carolina Business Court. Directs the Director to consult with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in developing the report. Details the required content of the report, including jurisdiction of the program, qualifications and training for arbitrators, and requirements for persons representing parties in proceedings before the program. Permits the report to also include suggestions regarding appeals in cases arbitrated under the program. Additionally authorizes the Director or through the NC Dispute Resolution Commission to include recommendations for establishing a mediation program operated by the Business Court.
Adds new Section 26.7, amending the following statutes pertaining to mediation in the General Court of Justice: GS 7A-38.1 (Mediated settlement conferences in superior court civil actions); GS 7A-38.3B (Mediation in matters within the jurisdiction of the clerk of superior court); and GS 7A-38.3D (Mediation in matters within the jurisdiction of the district criminal courts). Makes an exception from the respective provisions regarding the inadmissibility of statements for those that are made and conduct occurring in disciplinary hearings before the State Bar or the Dispute Resolution Commission (currently, in disciplinary proceedings before the State Bar or any agency established to enforce standards of conduct for mediators or other neutrals; reflects the establishment of the Dispute Resolution Commission under GS 7A-38.2). Similarly, amends GS 7A-38.4A (Settlement procedures in district court actions), excepting from the provisions regarding the inadmissibility of statements those that are made and conduct occurring in disciplinary proceedings before the State Bar or the Dispute Resolution Commission (currently, State Bar or any agency established to enforce standards of conduct for mediators or other neutrals). Makes conforming changes.
Adds new Section 26.8. Amends GS 7A-38.2 (Regulation of mediators and other neutrals). Amends subsection (a), increasing the Dispute Resolution Commission (Commission) from 16 to 17 members, adding a district attorney appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to the composition. Also clarifies that the five judges appointed by the Chief Justice to the Commission must include two active superior court judges and two active district court judges (currently, does not specify these must be active judges). Adds a new provision establishing that members appointed to fill unexpired terms are eligible to serve two consecutive terms upon the expiration of the unexpired term (currently, only provides that members are ineligible to serve more than two consecutive terms and does not address members appointed to unexpired terms). Deletes obsolete language concerning initial members' terms.
Amends subsection (d), concerning administrative fees. Authorizes the Dispute Resolution Commission to charge an administrative fee for applications for certification and annual renewal of certification for mediators and mediation training programs under the Article, not exceeding $200 per certification (currently, authority lies with the AOC, and the provision does not specifically apply the fee limit per certification). Directs the fees to be deposited in a Dispute Resolution Fund, to be established within the Judicial Department as a non-reverting, interest-bearing special revenue account. Directs that monies in the Dispute Resolution Fund be used to support the operations of the Commission and used at the direction of the Commission.
Amends subsection (e), authorizing the Commission to employ an executive director (was, an executive secretary) to assist the Commission.
Amends subsection (f), concerning the powers of the chair of the Commission or the chair's designee in connection with any investigation or hearing conducted pursuant to an application for certification or qualification of any mediator, other neutral, or training program, or conducted pursuant to any disciplinary matter. Modifies subdivision (f)(3), now granting the power to apply to the General Court of Justice, Superior Court Division, for any order necessary to enforce the powers conferred in the statute, including an order for injunctive relief pursuant to GS 1A-1, Rule 65, when a certified mediator's conduct necessitates prompt action (currently, does not specifically reference an order for injunctive relief).
Amends subsection (h), concerning the confidentiality of initial and renewal applications for certification or qualification under the statute, providing that the Commission must notify the Executive Director of the Mediation Network of North Carolina, Inc. and the Executive Director of the community mediation center that is sponsoring the application of any matter regarding qualifications, character, conduct, or fitness to practice of the applicant for certification in the District Criminal Court Mediation Program. Provides that all information in the Commission's disciplinary files pertaining to a complaint regarding the moral character, conduct, or fitness to practice of a mediator, other neutral, trainer, or other training program personnel must remain confidential, unless the subject of the complaint requests otherwise, until the time that all of the listed conditions are met. Modifies and adds to those conditions, which now include: the completion of a preliminary investigation; a determination that probable cause exists of words or actions violating the specified standards of conduct, program rules or applicable law; and the failure to timely appeal or the affirmation of the determination upon a timely appeal. Adds new provisions requiring Commission staff to provide notice of the finding of probable cause to any mediation program or agency under whose auspices the mediated settlement conference was conducted. Further directs the Commission to make reasonable efforts to notify the same agency or program of any public sanction imposed by the Commission as described. Authorizes the sharing of relevant information between Commission staff and members of the Grievance and Disciplinary Committee and other committee chairs or committees of the Commission.
Amends subsection (i), requiring all appeals from denials of initial applications for certification to be held in private unless an applicant requests a public hearing. Requires all appeals from denials of applications for certification renewal or reinstatement relating to moral character, conduct, or fitness to practice to be open to the public, except that the presiding officer can exclude all persons except the parties, counsel, and those engaged in the hearing for good cause shown.
Amends subsection (j), providing that the appeals from the Commission's initial determination after review and investigation of a complaint that probable cause exists to believe misconduct set out in new subdivision (h)(2) must be open to the public, except that the presiding officer can exclude all persons except the parties, counsel, and those engaged in the hearing for good cause shown. Prohibits any hearing from being closed to the public over the objection of the mediator, neutral, trainer, or training program personnel that is the subject of the complaint.
Adds new subsection (l), authorizing the Commission to issue a cease and desist letter to any individual who falsely represents himself or herself to the public as certified or as eligible to be certified pursuant to this statute, or who expressly or implicitly conveys this misrepresentation to the public, as specified. Authorizes the Commission to petition the superior court of Wake County for an injunction restraining the individual's conduct, and for any other relief the court deems appropriate, if the individual continues to make false representations after receipt of the letter.
Makes conforming changes to the statute.